Artists rarely react to the events of today, many even consider it a mover to spend time on the moment instead of the eternal. However, the events of recent months have become too significant for the whole world to be ignored even by those who self-isolate in the workshop without any epidemics. The USA Art News has listened to the art-echo of coronavirus.
Ai Weiwei (China)
Perhaps the most famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei started shooting a documentary film about the epidemic in his country in January, and at the same time working on the production of Puccini’s opera Turandot in Rome. In the midst of rehearsals coronavirus came to Italy and Wavey, he said, reworked the third act, reflecting the threat to the world. On his Instagram, the artist published a photo showing the scenography: white lines depicting the contours of continents on the floor. It turns out that the characters symbolize all of humanity.
Hamid Ebrahimnia (Iran)
One of the first countries after China, seriously affected by the coronavirus, was Iran. And the artists reacted quite quickly. 3D artist Hamid Ebrahimnia in early March published video art, depicting two helicopters fighting with the wind, pulling a medical mask on the highest building in Iran – the Tower of Milad in Tehran. The animation, imitating the shooting from the drone, looks very realistic.
David Hockney (United Kingdom)
Sitting in self-isolation in his home in Normandy, David Hockney tries not to lose optimism. The 82-year-old artist, whose works broke auction records some time ago, is engaged in drawing on iPad. He sent a digital work entitled “Remember: they can’t cancel spring” to the Danish Museum of Modern Art “Louisiana”, which published it on its Instagram.
Damien Hirst Rainbow
Health care workers fight against COVID-19 every day. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff know they can be infected, but continue to help those affected. To support the British Health Service (NHS), artist Damien Hirst created a rainbow of butterfly wings and dedicated it to British doctors. He invited people to download an image from his website and display it in their home windows. Hearst also plans to release a limited series of works with the rainbow, the funds from the sale of which will be transferred to the NHS to fight the coronavirus.
Hearst is the same artist who sold the shark in formalin for $12 million. And butterflies are one of his favorite motifs: for the artist, they symbolize death and resurrection at the same time.
Shepherd Fairy’s Poster
American street art artist Shepherd Fairy, known for his poster in support of Barack Obama’s campaign, the brand Obey and stickers with the image of Giant Andre, decided to thank the doctors. He called the new work “Compassion and Glory”, where he depicted a nurse in his recognizable graphic style.
“I am inspired to honor those who do not seek glory, but rather serve humanity when it is in great difficulty. I want this portrait to radiate the comforting warmth and sympathy that the nurses provide in the midst of anxiety and crisis.
Together with Adobe, Fairy launched the Honor Heroes art project and invited other artists and illustrators to create paintings with people from different professions who continue to work and risk their lives during the pandemic.
Molecules by Dario Gambarin
In early April, WHO reported that more than one hundred different COVID-19 vaccines are currently under development. Several of them are already being tested on humans. On this occasion, Italian artist Dario Gambarin depicted two molecules with the words “vaccine” and “coronavirus” right in the field.
“This work is dedicated to research and all researchers who are looking for a vaccine”.
Art object size of 90/230 meters in the style of land art appeared on the site, which belongs to the artist’s family. When creating his works, Gambarine uses a tractor. He calls such works ecological and ephemeral: according to the natural cycle, they disappear in 7-10 days.
Message from Yayoi Kusama
To support the people sitting in quarantine, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama wrote a poem about the coronavirus and asked the virus to disappear from the face of the earth. She called on everyone to unite for the sake of love and peace to cope with the difficulties and survive these difficult times.
“For people all over the world, it is time to rise up. I express my deep gratitude to all those who are already fighting”.
Kusama is one of the most expensive artists of our time. She is known as the author of works with dots, which symbolize the infinity of the universe.
Crown by Anastasia Alekhina
Russian artist Anastasia Alyokhina, having found herself in isolation, creates sculptures of bread crumbs and mold and wants to rethink the present, where people are during the pandemic.
“We are all prisoners, limited in our freedom… We are beginning to adapt according to traditional schemes of experiencing crisis reality… In the new reality, bread has become almost the only available material for me to create sculptures. And I turn to the prison tradition of molding from bread crumbs.
For the artist, the crown of bread and mold is a symbol of crisis, decline of power and loss of trust in the government and social and political structure of the state. Alekhina also wants to support medical personnel in the regions, who, in her opinion, are often not provided with food, do not receive the necessary protection and work in harsh conditions. Alyokhin’s plans include a charity event: she will sell handmade brooches in the form of bread and mold crowns, and send half of the proceeds to doctors.
Self-insulating matches by Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirr
A couple of artists from Los Angeles, Juan Delcan and Valentina Izagirr spoke about the need to stay at home and keep the distance to stop the virus from spreading. The husband and wife made a short animated video on the iPhone with a number of matches representing healthy people. When they are close to each other, they ignite.
“We want people to be aware of the importance of what is happening. The virus is spreading very fast. Do your part and stay at home”.
Spouses create rollers with matches in the form of men about a year. Now the heroes of their video also sit in isolation in their boxes, chatting in Zoom or sad alone.
How the experience of previous crises helps to predict the future of the art market
Now it’s too early to talk about how this crisis will affect the art market in the long term, but some ideas can be obtained based on the experience of previous collapses. Rachel Powell from the University of Maastricht has collected data on the total annual revenue from auction sales (the only reliable information on the market) for the last 30 years, during which there were two major crises – in 1991 and 2009.
After the Japanese financial bubble burst in 1991, the auction market fell by as much as 62%, followed by the multimillion-dollar market of Renoir and van Gogh. That time it took 13 years to return sales to the 1990 level. In 2009, as a result of the banking crisis, auction sales, by the most conservative estimates, fell by 36%. But a year later they doubled and continued to grow steadily, reaching the level of $21.5 billion by 2014 – this is almost six times higher than the level of 1990. So why are the scenarios so different?
“In 1990, prices for impressionism were very high. There was a bubble in the market,” explains Powell. – The recession of 2008 was caused by the global recession. The art market itself had already become global by that time.
Thanks to neoliberal economic policy and globalization, the richest 0.1 percent of the world’s population has become much richer in the past 30 years. Collecting art, especially contemporary art, not only pleases and raises the prestige of this tenth percentile, but it is also used as an alternative asset that enriches these people even more by increasing the value of works, optimizing taxes, and using them as collateral for loans. In addition, the collection has given this 0.1 percent access to a very certain luxury lifestyle, to the fun whirlpool of auctions, fairs, biennale, and exhibitions, as well as the parties and dinners that accompany them.
If the art market returns to the “normality”, will this “normality” come back with it?
“We will inevitably face a deep recession. Small businesses are suffering, but the stock market is recovering quite confidently,” says Martha Gnip, an art consultant and gallery owner from Berlin, who published the book “The Shift: Art and the coming to power of modern collectors” in 2015. She draws attention to the fact that indices such as the American Dow Jones and German DAX have already offset most of the March losses. “The art market depends on the rich, and most of them have suffered far less than other members of society,” she adds.
However, the current economic crisis caused by the pandemic has reached unprecedented proportions – and even more so since the Great Depression. For example, the Bank of England expects 2020 to be the worst year in the UK economy since 1706. “Great recessions like the one in the 1930s have a negative impact on art prices,” says William Getzman, co-author of the 2014 Economics of Aesthetics and Three Centuries of Record Art Prices study. – Small and medium-sized galleries face the same challenges as the rest of the retail business. I’m afraid that they too will not cope and will disappear”.
Now, when rich collectors do not travel around the world, the business, for the most part, has moved to the Internet. As the joint survey of The Art Newspaper and Powell recently showed, most art dealers report a 70% drop in sales. The transition of auctions to online mode has also led to a sharp decline in secondary market profits at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips.
Wishing to dispel fears of a potential repetition of the 1991 collapse, players report with particular enthusiasm on the multi-million dollar online sales of works by the celestials of the art market. Hauser & Wirth reports the sale of new work by Mark Bradford for $5 million at the virtual VIP preview of the Art Basel fair in June. And representatives of David Zwirner say they found a buyer for the sculpture of Jeff Koons 2013-2019 “Venus of Lespyug of balloons (red)” – the gallery exhibited it for $ 8 million in a virtual showroom. Sotheby’s and Christie’s now broadcast the auctions live, which allows you to partially reproduce the spectacle – and turnover – of New York evening trades. Estimates for works by such stars as Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Barnett Newman, Pablo Picasso, and Clifford Steele reach eight-digit amounts.
Meanwhile, the rest of the population is suffering from pandemics, recession, riots, and record unemployment. The multi-million dollar upper segment of the art market, which attracts the most media attention, has become a vivid indicator of property inequality in recent years. At a time when systemic racism is being widely discussed and protesters are dropping statues symbolizing colonialism, the existing art market value system, based on the pantheon of mostly old and dead white male artists, is looking increasingly inappropriate.
To be fair, the works of famous non-white artists, as well as women artists, have for some time attracted collectors with their constantly changing tastes. But this is the essence of the market. The distribution of resources remains the same, only the gods change.